Remember back when Turkey was trying to mediate the dispute between Qatar and a block of Arab nations who cut all ties with them? (You shouldn’t have to stretch your memory too far. That was just yesterday.) Our own Secretary of State, in an undoubtedly well meaning attempt to resolve the crisis, essentially told the Saudis and their allies that if they wanted Qatar to change its ways they would need to provide a list of “reasonable” demands so they could be evaluated.
Be careful what you wish for. It took the Saudis less than a day to deliver that list and boy oh boy is it a doozy. (Associated Press)
Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries that have cut ties to Qatar issued a steep list of demands Thursday to end the crisis, insisting that their Persian Gulf neighbor shutter Al-Jazeera, cut back diplomatic ties to Iran and close down a Turkish military base in Qatar.
In a 13-point list — presented to the Qataris by Kuwait, which is helping mediate the crisis — the countries also demand that Qatar sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and with other groups including Hezbollah, al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the list in Arabic from one of the countries involved in the dispute.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut ties to Qatar this month over allegations the Persian Gulf country funds terrorism — an accusation that President Donald Trump has echoed. Those countries have now given Qatar 10 days to comply with all of the demands, which include paying an unspecified sum in compensation.
Right off the bat you should be able to see that most of this list is composed of non-starters. Qatar will claim that they can’t shut down Al-Jazeera because it’s an independent news media outlet, at least in theory. I’m not fan of AJ, being essentially a propaganda machine, but they are still sorta kinda a journalism outfit. It’s interesting how one of our supposed allies in the region tops off their list with a demand to shut down the press.
As far as ending all ties with Iran and shutting down the Turkish air force presence, that’s got to be a joke. Iran and Turkey are the only ones taking Qatar’s side at the moment. (Well, except for us, of course, in a rather sideways, laterigrade fashion.) They also represent Qatar’s lifeline for food deliveries. Cutting off your only allies just to get the people currently trying to strangle your country’s supply chain to back off doesn’t sound like the sort of play that will go over well.
Qatar can easily enough say that they are ending relations with the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, al-Qaida and ISIS, but since none of those are conducted out in the open (if they are at all), it’s a promise which can’t be confirmed. It’s also worth noting that many of our western partners (as well as America) have relied in the past on Qatar’s ties to shady groups to get things done. (Remember the Bowe Bergdahl swap?)
They are also demanding that Qatar refuse to naturalize citizens from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain, as well as turning over any ex-pats from those nations who are wanted back home. I don’t see that one flying either. In fact, of the entire list of demands the only one you can see Qatar possibly going for is paying some “unspecified damages” to the other countries involved. They probably don’t think they owe them anything, but Qatar is rich enough to write a fat check to make a problem go away if they have to.
As far as Turkey’s involvement and the desired closing of their air base, the Turks came out and said they were staying before Qatar even had a chance to respond. (ABC News)
Turkey says it has no plans to shut down its military base in Qatar as demanded by Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations that have cut ties with Doha.
Kuwait — which is mediating between Qatar and its Arab neighbors — presented a list of those states’ demands to the Qataris. The list includes an end to Turkey’s military presence in Qatar.
Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said on Friday the Turkish base aims to train Qatari soldiers and increase the tiny Gulf nation’s security.
So much for that. In the meantime, you can do some extra credit reading over at the Washington Post, where Asli Aydintasbas has penned an op-ed declaring that Turkey needs to stay out of Qatar’s mess. It’s a noble sentiment by any standard, but it also has one major flaw. Turkey hasn’t listened to any sort of reasoning or pressure from Donald Trump, Theresa May or Angela Merkel. I’m not convinced that they’re taking their policy advice from the WaPo editorial pages.